Our Country's Good

Wilma’s Rating [rating=3]


“We left our country, for our country’s good”. A line spoken by one of the hundreds of British criminals that had been sentenced to a life of punishment on a remote island in Australia in the late 1700’s.

A true story of a group of criminals who were made to put on a play in Sydney for the Kings birthday. The story and those involved, form the basis for the show we see.

Should criminals be punished or nourished? A crew divided between letting prisoners rot or allowing them to try to better themselves on the chance they may make it home one day.

Reluctant at first with the play, (especially as they have to perform alongside the man who may eventually put them to death) the prisoners come to realise it helps them to forget why they are there and the future that lies before them. They come to depend on it as a life line.

We see the full extent of their punishments from lashings through to hangings but the story gets interrupted by actors introducing the next scene. It was pretty obvious that we were watching “The Hanging Scene” and so I’m unsure why they felt the need to announce it and break the audience’s focus. If it was an attempt to demonstrate there was a play being staged then this was unnecessary.

The are real moments of comedy throughout the play which are much-needed in this serious and sometimes distressing story. Convicts who are called whores retaliate by saying ‘if god didn’t want women to be whores, he shouldn’t have created men that would pay for them’.

The cast is to be commended for their performances. Kathryn O’Reilly portrays the most difficult of all convicts Liz Morden with dry humour that receives the biggest laughs of the night. Lisa Kerr gives a sweet and sour performance as Duckling Smith, a hard nut on the outside but soft in the middle and Ciaran Owens plays the stupidly loveable hangman.

Our Country’s Good makes a valid point out of just how important theatre is in the world. How it provides comfort and entertainment, where people can escape their lives for two hours and become lost in another world.

The St James Theatre really is beautiful. This was the second time I have been but I was just as blown away as the first. The theatre seems to attract a more affluent type of audience than the west end and this is largely reflected in the choice of productions they put on.

Our Country’s Good is captivating, however we are left with unanswered questions about what happened next. Maybe I missed the answers in a moment of blindness from the shining beacon next to me that indicated I was sitting on the end of row G, but I felt something was missing from what could have been masterpiece.

Our Country’s Good plays at the St James Theatre until 23rd March 2013. Click here for tickets.


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